UNIVERSITY academics and staff members will join undergraduate and postgraduate students today to rally in support of higher education funding, as part of a nationwide “day of action” that aims to put the issue on the federal election agenda.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has arranged the “National Day of Action” jointly with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA), and NTEU members at ten universities will meet to discuss industrial action against their employers over pay and conditions.
The union’s national president Jeannie Rea says higher education in Australia “stands at a tipping point”.
“Over the past three years, the Labor Government has slashed over $4 billion from higher education with the complicity of the Coalition,” Ms Rea says. “This cannot go on. Properly funded universities and properly supported students are essential for a smart future for Australia.”
The NTEU, NUS and CAPA are also calling on school and TAFE teachers and students, parents, employers, unionists and other members of the community to join the campaign to make all types of education a federal election issue.
“When we call for education for all – we mean from early childhood to higher degrees,” says Ms Rea. “Higher education should be available regardless of background or circumstance, but the costs of education keep increasing.”
ANU staff will meet outside the ANU’s Roland Wilson Building at 12.30pm today to vote on whether to take industrial action against their employer, over a recent offer made by ANU management during enterprise bargaining negotiations.
NTEU ACT Division Secretary Stephen Darwin said the focus of the “crucial mass meeting” outside the Roland Wilson Building would be the ANU’s “below-inflation offer” of three 2-per-cent pay rises over four years.
“Vice-Chancellor Ian Young has told me this derisory offer is a serious plan,” Mr Darwin said. “Members will vote … on initiating the process for industrial action to show management what we think of being offered, in real terms, a salary cut.”
As the ANU’s last staff agreement expired over 15 months ago, Mr Darwin says the offer was effectively a salary increase of 1.5 per cent, per year, “in the life of the next agreement”.
“Members are also up in arms over ANU plans to get rid of 230 professional staff – 10 per cent of its entire professional staff workforce – and an indeterminate number of academics over 55 who’ll be replaced by younger models,” he says.
The outcome of the NTEU meeting will be known at around 1.30pm.